In a new Pentagon report that released Tuesday, China is attempting to at least double the number of nuclear warheads in its arsenal in the next decade and its military has already equaled or surpassed the United States in a series of key areas.
The report detailing China’s military capabilities comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over a range of issues, including Chinese military activities in the South China Sea and US-support to Taiwan.
It is also published in the run-up to the 2020 election as US President Donald Trump is looking to make his increasingly aggressive stance towards Beijing a key campaign issue.
“Over the next decade, China’s nuclear warhead stockpile —currently estimated to be in the low- 200s— is projected to at least double in size as China expands and modernizes its nuclear forces,” the Pentagon report states, adding that the number of warheads on Chinese land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles that are “capable of threatening the United States is expected to grow to roughly 200 in the next five years.
“China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernizes, diversifies, and increases the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms,” the report said.
“China is pursuing a ‘nuclear triad’ with the development of a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile and improving its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities.”
The report also notes that China is in possession of the “largest navy in the world,” with some 350 ships and submarines, “including over 130 major surface combatants. In comparison, the US Navy’s battle force is approximately 293 ships as of early 2020.”
China “has more than 1,250 ground-launched ballistic missiles (GLBMs) and ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers,” the report said, adding that in 2019 Beijing “launched more ballistic missiles for testing and training than the rest of the world combined.”
While the US has started developing intermediate-range missiles of its own, China still enjoys a significant advantage in that area.
Despite the advancements, the Pentagon report did say that China has still had some ways to go in regards to its military investments and modernization campaign, stating that some Chinese infantry units were still using older “obsolete” military equipment that dates from the era when the communist country was governed by Chairman Mao Tse-Tung.